Over the course of the last election season, flip-flops went from being an item to carry on your summer vacation to a weapon of political destruction. Republicans successfully painted Senator John Kerry as a “flip-flopper” and the candidate did not help matters by issuing absurd statements like “I was for it before I was against it.”
This year this particular attack against the Democrat has not been as successful, though there are very specific instances of changes in positions by Senator Obama which have given even progressive voters heartburn. Perhaps the ineffectiveness of the meme can be explained by the even more egregious, almost dizzying, revisionism practiced by the Republican candidate for President.
While opponents of both candidates have eagerly pounced on every inflection, every nuance and every little bit of political ass-covering by the candidates, we recognize that not every change is a cause for censure. Keeping that in mind, we bring to you the highlight reel of the flip-flops of each candidate. It is by no means comprehensive, but since there are blogs that exclusively deal with each candidate’s position hopping, we thought we would use a common sense filter to remove the nonsensical accusations on both sides.
Telecom Immunity – Obama’s U-turn on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance provoked outrage from the left-wing blogosphere. He defended his decision with an email to Daily Kos, http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/20/155839/542/779/539258 but this particular flip-flop had supporters fuming and threatening to cut off donations. Obama had promised to filibuster it if it retained the provision immunizing telecom companies from lawsuits arising from the companies’ compliance with Administration requests—orders, really—to coöperate in patently illegal activity. The bill did retain that provision, and Obama voted not only for the bill but against the filibuster.
Oil Drilling – After speaking out against offshore drilling when Sen. John McCain proposed striking down the federal moratorium banning offshore oil and gas drilling to help alleviate high gas prices, Obama said that he would be willing to compromise on his position against offshore oil drilling if it were part of a more overarching strategy to lower energy costs. “My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,” Obama told The Palm Beach Post.
Public financing – Obama replied “yes” in September 2007 when asked if he would agree to public financing of the presidential election if his GOP opponent did the same. Obama then attached several conditions to such an agreement, including regulating spending by outside groups. After his enormous success raising funds from small donors, he decided to opt out of public financing, a move that has given him a distinct advantage in the home stretch to Election Day.
Special interests – In January, the Obama campaign described union contributions to the campaigns of Clinton and John Edwards as “special interest” money. Obama changed his tune as he began gathering his own union endorsements. He now refers respectfully to unions as the representatives of “working people” and says he is “thrilled” by their support.
Illegal immigration In a March 2004 questionnaire, Obama was asked if the government should “crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.” He replied “Oppose.” In a Jan. 31, 2008, televised debate, he said that “we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation.”
Regulation in the financial markets – After the bailout and the recent financial crisis, McCain said on the stump “Under my reforms the American people will be protected by comprehensive regulations that will apply the rules and enforcements to the fullest.” But McCain has had a long history of supporting deregulation. His own words have been, “I am fundamentally a deregulator.” McCain’s last experience with an economic crisis was during the Savings and Loans bust where he was one of the Keating 5, using his senate standing to press regulators to not get involved. His economic advisor, Phil Gramm, was one of the key architects of a piece of deregulation that’s been a big contributor to the current crisis in the financial markets.
Roe v. Wade – After stating categorically in 1999 that “I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations,” McCain now enthusiastically supports overturning it. The landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose an abortion to terminate a pregnancy.
Tax cuts – In 2001, McCain said of President Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief.” He now supports extending the same tax cuts.
Immigration reform – McCain co-authored with Senator Ted Kennedy a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2005, which worked towards giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship as well as increased funding for border enforcement. When asked this year if he would vote for his own bill, he replied, “No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first.”
Offshore drilling – In 1999, Senator McCain opposed offshore drilling. He is now a staunch proponent of the same, inciting supporters to chant “Drill, baby, drill!”
Rights for detainees at Guantanamo – in 2005, Senator McCain said –“ I think, on balance, the argument has got to be–the weight of evidence has got to be that we’ve got to adjudicate these people’s cases, and that means that if it means releasing some of them, you’ll have to release them.” When the Supreme Court ruled this year that detainees were entitled to a fair trial, he said it was one of the worst decisions “in the history of the country.”
Privatizing Social Security – McCain has long been a proponent of privatizing social security, saying in 2004 – “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits” and expressing his support for President Bush’s proposal to do the same in March of this year. However in a town hall event in New Hampshire in June he abruptly reversed position, saying, “I’m not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be.”
Warrant-less wiretapping – Early this year, McCain said, “McCain said, “There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.” In June of 2008 however, a top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful.
And now, for your viewing pleasure.